LONG BEACH, Long Island (WABC) -- The emergency department at a Nassau County hospital has temporarily closed due to nursing staff shortages as a result of New York's vaccine mandate.
Officials at Mount Sinai South Nassau said Monday that all other options were exhausted before the decision was made to close the ER, starting at 3 p.m.
Instead, patients in need of emergency care will be directed to the hospital's main campus in Oceanside. It's roughly five miles away and could take 25 minutes to get to in traffic.
An ambulance will be stationed at the ER at all times for the duration of the closure.
The closure will last for up to four weeks and could be expanded, depending on staff availability.
"We regret having to take this step but the safety of our patients is always our No. 1 priority," said President Adhi Sharma. "This will allow us to shift nursing staff to the Oceanside campus to ensure that we maintain adequate staffing at the Emergency Department at our main campus."
Hospital officials say it's a result of compliance with state mandate that requires the suspension of all staff working under temporary religious exemptions who have not shown proof of at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a valid medical exemption.
More than 99% of Mount Sinai South Nassau's staff is fully vaccinated, not counting those who sought religious or medical exemptions.
"We are committed to serving residents of the barrier island," Dr. Sharma said. "This closure should not be interpreted as anything beyond what it is - a temporary measure designed to relieve current staffing challenges in our Emergency Department. Our nurses, physicians and support staff have been on the frontlines of the pandemic for more than 21 months. We will continue to be there for our patients."
It's the only emergency facility on Long Beach and serves roughly 10,000 people each year. It opened in 2015 after Superstorm Sandy essentially destroyed Long Beach Medical Center.
Many on the barrier island feel the temporary closure will have a devastating impact on the community.
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